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Night navigation adventure - 14 Oct 2013

posted 7 Nov 2013, 06:41 by DMC Webmaster

Adventure report: Night navigation with Andy Murphy and Justyna Szczachor

On the memorable day of October the 14th 2013, two very determined mountain enthusiasts set off from Dundee in the direction of the Cairngorm car park. We were both happily off school/university for the week and looking to fill time with something pleasant, productive and useful for sticking in our ML (mountain leader) logbooks. The intention was to set off from the car park early afternoon and allow around 3h for the walk-in to our intended camping spot at the banks of the Feith Buidhe, just off the Cairngorm plateau. We would then wait for darkness to descend only to use it to practice navigation under its treacherous veil... What a noble cause. All sounded perfect.

Se we set off nice and early, just after 9.30 am. The weather had already been predicted rubbish but we cheerily decided this will just make our cause more challenging. Andy decided to take a scenic route, driving through the Cairngorms via Braemar, which sounded like a brilliant idea – gorgeous views and all that – until just after Blairgowrie, where the road narrowed and became very tortuous and my stomach reminded me that I'd been used to being the driver and not the passenger for a while now... I managed to keep the gut bay until just before Tomintoul but I shall spare you the details. My apologies to Andy!

The unexpectedly prompt walk-in took 1.5h and was wet and cold but didn't put us off at all! We arrived at the camp early and got straight to putting the tent up with freezing fingers. We needed to jump in, away from the rain, and warm up. This done, we wondered what to do next... a nap seemed in order. I doubt either of us actually slept, mostly for the cold and wet and the thoughts of what we would do if the weather continued to get worse... Following that, some dinner was put together, and spirits were high despite the grimness of continuing rain and wind. As it soon got dark, and the weather hadn't eased, we decided to wait until it stops and sleep until then.

We set an alarm for 3am, hoping for the best... Lucky for us, the rain indeed stopped shortly before 3 so we breakfasted and had a look at the map. As there was thick fog and some snow outside, which just looked partularly uninviting, we thought we would do some rounds around the tent. Good thing we did, because as soon as we'd walked around 10m away from it, we lost sight of it and had to shakily re-trace the steps back! It's hard to describe how poor visibility and orientation can be in thick fog, sub-zero temperature and complete darkness, on a featurless plateau. We then played about with bearings to little streams around the tent, and after this packed up and set off to pick up the path to Ben Macdui.

We took bearings off each other and counted steps in between, to finally arrive at the path absolutely spot-on, right next to the loch! We followed by the cairns and our bearings to summit Scotland's second highest mountain at 7:08am. After a quick breakfast in the lovely storm shelter we happily, and this time in daylight, scooted down towards the car park, passing other hikers, with faces full of admiration at the sight of us (ekhm), to then sit triumphantly in the warm and dry for the first time in almost 24 hours! What a treat.

Great adventure, recommended to every aspiring mountaineer. I might become the next Moon-Munroist...


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DMC Webmaster,
7 Nov 2013, 06:41
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tent.jpg
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DMC Webmaster,
7 Nov 2013, 06:41